Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/12/2016 (1276 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It has not been a stellar year for those women who have gathered the courage to tell police they’ve been sexually assaulted.
The number of these cases that ever make it to trial is markedly small. Elizabeth Sheehy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, says only 12 of every 1,000 reported sexual assault cases result in charges laid. Only three will result in a conviction.
Canadian women have watched the high-profile accusations against former CBC employee Jian Ghomeshi fall apart. They’ve watched as Donald Trump admitted he grabs women “by the p---y,” yet won the U.S. presidential election. Then, they’ve had to endure explanations not only from Mr. Trump but from Republican strategists who assert that all men talk that way — that this type of violent rhetoric is just “locker-room talk.”
Even Bill Cosby, the man once dubbed America’s favourite dad, faced accusations by 35 women that he sexually assaulted them, yet his comedy act remained popular in London and Hamilton, Ont. In fact, the 77-year old comedian made light of his charges at his performance in London, saying to a woman in the crowd: “You have to be careful about drinking around me,” which drew loud applause.
Last Tuesday, news came that an Alberta judge — who asked a complainant in a sexual assault trial why she didn’t keep her knees together — is one step closer to being thrown off the bench. A panel convened by the Canadian Judicial Council determined that Judge Robin Camp of the Federal Court harmed the public’s confidence in the courts and the only remedy would be to have him taken off the bench.
Mr. Camp apologized at his disciplinary hearing in September for his actions, saying “I was not the good judge I thought I was. Canadians deserve more from their judges.” He also underwent sensitivity training and counselling. But in the end, it wasn’t enough and still isn’t.
The CJC decision is prudent for many reasons. Firstly, it sends a very clear message to other judges that there is no room in the courtroom for antiquated beliefs about sexual violence — a lesson that seems to have been lost on several judges, including Mr. Camp and Manitoba Judge Robert Dewar. Recall, Mr. Dewar suggested that a Thompson woman who was raped was partly to blame for the attack because of how she dressed and behaved.
Secondly, it provides women with some confidence in the judicial process. Many women say the legal process is one reason they will not report sexual violence. Finally, it makes it clear that the public appetite for these types of judicial declarations is waning.
Two legal professors went public with their outrage at Mr. Camp’s comments and the subsequent media coverage in part prompted the Alberta justice minister to file a formal complaint.
For many, there is a sense that there is no accountability for judges. The CJC did not penalize Mr. Dewar for his comments. There were no ramifications in 1999, when Appeal Court Justice John McClung attacked a Supreme Court justice who took him to task for his reliance on sexual assault myths in what became known as the no-means-no case.
It seems, at long last, the CJC has decided to take this fundamental step in the face of growing public frustration.
» Winnipeg Free Press